Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano might not be able to sleep for a night or two, lying awake, wondering how such a special season ended with a first-round playoff flop.
When he does finally drift off, Nathan MacKinnon might show up in his nightmares.
“For anyone who doesn’t think MacKinnon is one of the best, if not THE BEST, they might want to look at this series,” Giordano said Friday, shortly after the speedy superstar and his Colorado Avalanche teammates finished nudging the Flames into the off-season with a 5-1 shellacking at the Saddledome.
“Because he can really turn it up to another level and really took control. A tough player to play against, and I thought he really took control and led their team.
“The thing about him was when we thought we had him contained five-on-five, he makes you pay on the power-play, like tonight. Listen, he gets my vote for best player right now in the game, at this point. He totally took over and you have to give him a lot of credit …
“He’s a tough player to play against. Connor, Sid, he’s right up there with those two.”
Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, though, are already on summer vacation.
Nate The Great is through to the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs after powering the Avs to a 4-1 edge in their best-of-seven against the heavily-favoured crew from Calgary.
The Flames, after claiming the top seed in the Western Conference, are first to be bounced on their side of the bracket.
“Right now, he’s definitely the best player still left in the league, in my opinion,” Giordano reiterated. “He turned it up to another level. I’ve played against him a lot and he was a great player, but this was a whole different level we saw out there in this playoff.”
The 23-year-old MacKinnon piled up eight points — three goals and five helpers — in five outings against the Flames. That count included an overtime winner, an assist on the tying tally late in regulation in Game 4 and then three apples in Friday’s clincher.
He was outdone only by sometimes-linemate Mikko Rantanen, who sniped five and set up four others.
With Gabriel Landeskog notching four points of his own, it was a whitewash on behalf of Colorado’s star forwards.
On the opposite side, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm combined for five points. The Flames’ entire forward cast totalled 18.
Gaudreau was stopped Friday on a penalty shot and then fired wide on a breakaway soon after, an obvious turning point since the Avalanche scored a fluke goal at the other end just moments later.
“It feels awesome to win a round,” MacKinnon said after leading the Avs to their first series triumph since back in 2008. “It’s been a while for this organization, and I’ve personally never won a round. Really excited about it.
“Obviously, we were the big underdogs and no one picked us to win. We didn’t expect to win in five, but we believed in this group. We just got rolling. We felt like in Game 1, we outplayed them and ever since then the score matched our play, I think.”
The Flames couldn’t match MacKinnon, or even contain him.
That wasn’t the only difference in this first-round disappointment, but it’s one of the biggies.
“He was a beast,“ said netminder Mike Smith, by far the Flames’ top performer during their opening-round dismissal. “He really took charge of the whole series, even from Game 1, and he carried it through and led by example. He’s a heck of a player and he can turn a game around, and he did that in this series.”
While Smith was praising MacKinnon’s impact, No. 29 for the other guys also stopped the starting stalwart — a teammate at the world championship in 2015 — in the handshake line to pass some compliments the other direction.
Smith racked up 188 saves against the Avalanche, an average of 37-plus per game.
“I just said he was amazing,” MacKinnon shared afterward. “He was — I didn’t need to tell him that. I know him, and I just wanted to congratulate him on a great series.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019